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Kenosha officials have approved steps to begin litigation against drug manufacturers and distributors responsible for contributing to the area’s opioid crisis.

The resolution, passed by the City Council 14-1 Monday night, states Kenosha was “damaged as a community through the time taken responding to calls for service by our police and fire department to overdoses, by the training and equipment necessary to provide for the emergency treatment of the overdoses, and by the time taken dealing with the criminal activity associated with the addictions.”

Kenosha would become one of more than 1,850 governmental entities nationwide seeking damages due to false and misleading advertising by drug companies.

According to the Kenosha County Opioid Task Force, 80 percent of heroin users began with prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, fentanyl and codeine. The epidemic has led to the destruction of families and homes and the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of addicts who turned to crime to support their addictions.

Attorney Jeff Gaddy of the Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm Levin Papantonio, addressed the council on Monday. Gaddy represents about 700 local governments across the country including Milwaukee County, Dane County, Waukesha County and Walworth County.

“We’re representing local governments where the harm is being felt the hardest,” Gaddy said. “We’re seeking to recover both past and future damages. In the past, we’re looking to recover expenses that cities have spent on resources such as law enforcement, police departments, fire departments, public works, parks and recreation.

“Really the focus of the lawsuit is forward looking. We are seeking to abate the public nuisance, the public health crisis that has been caused by this epidemic and recover funds the city can use moving forward.

“This would be used to fund and support law enforcement and court programs and most importantly fund and support addiction treatment services. We believe money is needed in all those areas to truly address and solve this crisis in all the different communities.”

Gaddy said most of the cases have been filed in federal court, consolidated and set for trial in October in Cleveland, Ohio.

“We expect a positive result,” Gaddy said. “It would be our privilege to represent Kenosha in that litigation as well.”

Ald. Dave Paff was the lone council member who voted against the proposal.

“The damage that’s done to the city seems to be in the form of providing EMS, manpower, vehicles, resources from police and fire,” Paff said. “I’m pretty sure members of those agencies would support the fact that what they do in terms of providing the service is funded. The enterprise they undertake is the mission of the police and fire. In terms of funding or damage to those agencies, personally I don’t see that.”

Ald. Anthony Kennedy voted in favor of pursuing legal action. He was also adamant about where those potential funds would be allocated.

“If we get to a point where there’s a settlement and we have some funds we need to use in our community, I’d like to make sure those who are affected, that those funds are dispersed on their behalf,” Kennedy said.

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